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A Moment in History

Self-portrait, Henry Vandyke Carter, MD (Public Domain)
Self-portrait, Henry Vandyke Carter, MD (Public Domain)

Henry Vandyke Carter, MD
(1831 – 1897)

English physician, surgeon, medical artist, and a pioneer in leprosy and mycetoma studies.  HV Carter was born in Yorkshire in 1831. He was the son of Henry Barlow Carter, a well-known artist and it is possible that he honed his natural talents with his father. His mother picked his middle name after a famous painter, Anthony Van Dyck. This is probably why his name is sometimes shown as Henry Van Dyke Carter, although the most common presentation of his middle name is Vandyke.

Having problems to finance his medical studies, HV Carter trained as an apothecary and later as an anatomical demonstrator at St. George’s Hospital in London, where he met Henry Gray (1872-1861), who was at the time the anatomical lecturer. Having seen the quality of HV Carter’s drawings, Henry Gray teamed with him to produce one of the most popular and longer-lived anatomy books in history: “Gray’s Anatomy”, which was first published in late 1857.  The book itself, about which many papers have been written, was immediately accepted and praised because of the clarity of the text as well as the incredible drawings of Henry Vandyke Carter.

While working on the book’s drawings, HV Carter continued his studies and received his MD in 1856.

In spite of initially being offered a co-authorship of the book, Dr. Carter was relegated to the position of illustrator by Henry Gray and never saw the royalties that the book could have generated for him. For all his work and dedication, Dr. Carter only received a one-time payment of 150 pounds. Dr.  Carter never worked again with Gray, who died of smallpox only a few years later.

Frustrated, Dr. Carter took the exams for the India Medical Service.  In 1858 he joined as an Assistant Surgeon and later became a professor of anatomy and physiology. Even later he served as a Civil Surgeon. During his tenure with the India Medical Service he attained the ranks of Surgeon, Surgeon-Major, Surgeon-Lieutenant-Colonel, and Brigade-Surgeon.

Dr. Carter dedicated the rest of his life to the study of leprosy, and other ailments typical of India at that time. He held several important offices, including that of Dean of the Medical School of the University of Bombay. In 1890, after his retirement, he was appointed Honorary Physician to the Queen.

Dr. Henry Vandyke Carter died of tuberculosis in 1897.

Personal note: Had history been different, this famous book would have been called “Gray and Carter’s Anatomy” and Dr. Carter never gone to India. His legacy is still seen in the images of the thousands of copies of “Gray’s Anatomy” throughout the world and the many reproductions of his work available on the Internet. We are proud to use some of his images in this blog. The image accompanying this article is a self-portrait of Dr. Carter. Click on the image for a larger depiction. Dr. Miranda

1. “Obituary: Henry Vandyke Carter” Br Med J (1897);1:1256-7
2. “The Anatomist: A True Story of ‘Gray’s Anatomy” Hayes W. (2007) USA: Ballantine
3. “A Glimpse of Our Past: Henry Gray’s Anatomy” Pearce, JMS. J Clin Anat (2009) 22:291–295
4. “Henry Gray and Henry Vandyke Carter: Creators of a famous textbook” Roberts S. J Med Biogr (2000) 8:206–212.
5. “Henry Vandyke Carter and his meritorious works in India” Tappa, DM et al. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol (2011) 77:101-3

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Book: Myology before Vesalius – Giovanni Batista Canani –

This is a book published recently by my good friends Francis Van Glabbeek, Maurits Biesbrouck, and Jacqueline Vons.

This group is dedicated to the works of Andreas Vesalius and his influence on Medicine, Surgery and the Arts. As part of the analysis of Vesalius’ works they started research on a far less-known anatomist, Giovanni Battista Canani (1515 - c.1579). Cananis’ last name is sometimes presented as Canano.

The authors researched a book of which there are only 15 known copies in the world, far less than Vesalius’ Fabrica, "Musculorum Humani Corporis Picturata Dissectio". Of these 15 copies, only two are in the USA, one at Yale University, the other at Duke University. The online version of the Duke University can be seen or downloaded here.

Canani was born in Ferrara, Italy and was a remarkable and leading physician-anatomist in the sixteenth century, but he is far less well known today than contemporaries such as Vesalius, Fallopio or Colombo.His only work on the muscular anatomy of the upper limb Musculorum Humani Corporis Picturata Dissectio (Dissection Images of the Muscles of the Human Body) can in fact be considered as a masterpiece of its time, no less innovative than Vesalius’ Fabrica. The book is revolutionary in its content and contains copper etchings of exceptional quality and precision. This is the result of Canani’s extensive dissections of human corpses, performed meticulously and with a determination to discover the tiniest details of the human anatomy.

Book cover - Myology Before Vesalius
Book cover - The Anatomist by Bill Hayes 

In fact, Canani came from a distinguished medical family and developed into an anatomist at an early age. He was trained by Marcantonio della Torre, an associate of Leonardo da Vinci, and was Pope Julius IIIs personal physician until his death in 1555, after which he became chief physician at the University of Ferrara. He discovered the palmaris brevis muscle in the hand and was the first to describe the valves in the veins, a fact which he communicated to his contemporary, Vesalius. Around 1542, he published a small volume of twenty leaves on the muscles of the arm and forearm. This was to be the initial book of may be a larger work he planned to produce; however, it was the only book that was completed. It is thought that he felt his work was so overshadowed by Vesalius' Fabrica that he destroyed as many copies as he could recover. This would explain the scarcity of copies of Canani’s original book.

Thankfully, the book by Van Glabbeek, Maurits Biesbrouck and Jacqueline Vons contains a color facsimile of Cananis’ publication and should be a fantastic addition for any student of Medical History or collector of Vesaliana. You can order your copy by clicking here or use the QR code in this article.

cananiqrcode sm ...... Professor Francis Van Glabbeek , anatomist and surgeon, founding member and member of BIOMAB (Biological and Medical Art in Belgium), is a passionate collector of antiquarian medical books, has been a driving force in continuing Vesalius’s legacy by bringing artists together with scientists, and, in the spirit of Vesalius, teaching anatomy from direct observation.

Maurits Biesbrouck is a well known Vesalius scholar who published a Dutch translation of the first volume of the 1543 Fabrica by Vesalius, as well as a Vesalius bibliography as well as a summary and discussion of the editions of his works.

Jacqueline Vons is Professor Emeritus of classical languages at Université François Rabelais in Tours, France. Together with Prof. Stephane Velut, Professor of Anatomy at the same university, she published the first French translation of Vesalius’s Epitome and is currently working on the French translation of Vesalius’s 1543 Fabrica.

Personal note: This is a book that I personally recommend and proud to add to my personal library. Dr. Miranda.

1. “Myology before Vesalius - Giovanni Battista Canani (1515 - 1579 n.s.) and his Musculorum Humani Corporis Picturata Dissectio " Van Glabbeek,F; Biesbrouck, M.; Vons, J. 2022. Garant, Belgium.
2. "Musculorum Humani Corporis Picturata Dissectio" Sigersit, HE. 1925 Lier & Co. Florece, Italy.